Stevens Square Community Organization strengthened

Stevens Square Community Organization (SSCO) recently participated in the 10-week Community Leadership Institute workshop to improve all aspects of the group’s operations.

The class was offered through St. Thomas University, 1000 LaSalle Ave., in partnership with Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which funded the program along with grant money from General Mills.

SSCO is the first neighborhood group to undergo the training. The class has been available since 2001 to residents citywide, but this fall the format shifted to community groups because it was difficult for individuals to carry suggestions back to their neighborhoods on their own, said Community Leadership Institute Program Manager Margie Segal.

Part of the workshop’s goal is to arm people with more skills, contacts, resources and friends. “We want organizations to be smarter, to have a better idea of best practices, a sense of how to get their own internal operations up to that level in terms of development and marketing as a whole,” she said. “We talked about making people more knowledgeable, effective and responsible leaders to enhance their capacity and connection.”

In the pilot with SSCO, a class of 30 included 10 board members plus SSCO staff and neighborhood residents who attended three-hour sessions in October and November.

Instructors shared expertise in such areas as accounting, fundraising, board member selection, team-building, asset-based community development and consensus-building. Lessons were tailored to SSCO. The organization now is planning a board retreat to recap the workshop and expand on it.

“One of the things that made SSCO a success is that the board was so enthusiastic. SSCO really gave a lot. Participants showed a lot of leadership and openness to the process,” Segal said “We want to keep that same kind of commitment and willingness to do that recruiting and follow through with it.”

SSCO Chair Nadine Knibb, who participated in the workshop, said the most useful lesson centered on effective leadership.

“We need to understand what community involvement is all about and have the tools to bring about the desired results for personal needs and wants or community needs and wants,” she said.

SSCO Executive Director Julie Filapek said the program encourages people to consider an organization’s relationship to its community.

“In class, that’s a critical mass of people who have a lot of new knowledge and energy,” Filapek said. “My sense is that it was an intense 10-week process and people got to know each other well.”

For further information about the workshop or to apply for the leadership training to come to your neighborhood group, contact Margie Segal at [email protected].